We’re constantly being told by TED Talks, life coaches, career advice blogs and entrepreneurs to get a mentor.
Mentoring has received celebrity endorsements from the likes of Richard Branson, Sheryl Sandberg, Oprah Winfrey and many more.
A mentor is someone who can guide, advise, and support you to achieve your goals and progress in your professional and personal life.
Sounds nice right?
But there’s something about the way the media discusses mentoring that makes it sound rather unattainable, or reserved for the lucky few who were in the right place at the right time.
On top of that, even if you have identified someone you’d like to be mentored by, it’s naturally quite intimidating to approach them and ask for their help.
So how do you actually find a mentor?
From working with hundreds of mentors and mentees at Guider, we’re experts in what makes the perfect mentoring relationship. Here are our top tips for finding a life changing mentor:
1. Think about what you want to achieve from mentoring
Before anything, why do you want a mentor? Obviously support and guidance is nice, but what do you actually want to improve or achieve? Or even deeper, what kind of person do you want to be?
Try and write down the answers to these questions before you even think about finding a mentor. This exercise of self-awareness will highlight the areas you want to work on, which will help when it comes to finding a person to help you get there.
2. Attract a mentor
Finding a mentor feels like you’re asking for a lot. You’re asking somebody who is busy and successful, to give up their time, for free, to help you. It’s easy to feel slightly powerless in this dynamic, as you’re wholly dependent on the goodwill of others.
However, this is not a good position to seek a mentor from. Instead, you must be hungry to learn and committed to your own success. Your personal and career development doesn’t start when you get a mentor, that’s something you have to own and the mentoring will come more naturally.
Be the person that somebody wants to mentor. Make a conscious effort to know exactly what you want, put yourself out there, and work hard to attract this high-level help and support.
3. Assess your current network
It’s tempting to ask a stranger to be your mentor, whether in a desire to reinvent yourself or start your relationship without any preconceptions. However, the challenge of getting a stranger to mentor you is far greater (and more daunting) than somebody who already knows you.
Start by thinking of people you know and admire. These people will already know your personality and will hopefully be more invested in your development. Remember, you are asking someone to help you out of the goodness of their own heart, and that request is going to be received much more favourably if that person already knows and respects you.
4. If you’re set on a stranger, don’t ask them outright
If you do have a stranger in mind who you’re desperate to be mentored by (maybe you saw them talk at a conference, or follow them on Twitter) don’t ask them to be your mentor straight away.
No matter how persuasive your outreach might be, this person is likely very busy and desirable, so why on earth would they help you?
What you can do instead is start engaging with them and their work. Share and comment on their updates on social media, attend events they’ll be at, start insightful conversations with them, help solve their problems. It’s essentially like putting in the groundwork to mentorship.
You can’t expect a stranger to want to help you, but you can be proactive in making them not a stranger!
5. Speak to HR
If you’re having trouble knowing where to start with mentoring, speak to your company! Mentoring is becoming more and more commonplace within organisations, and it’s a fair thing to ask for in order to develop your skills and career aspirations.
Guider is an AI powered mentoring software that businesses can use to run internal mentoring programs. Matching mentors and mentees via machine learning algorithms takes the difficulty of finding a mentor out of your hands. Find out more here or get in touch.
6. Coffee first
So you’ve got a person in mind that you think will be able to help you achieve your goals and progress in your career. Somebody to introduce you to new ideas and ways of thinking, challenge you, and guide you in the right direction.
Bear in mind, you still don’t know at this point if they will be a good mentor. So you don’t want to ask them to be your mentor straight away, because you could get 2 sessions in and realise you don’t get along, or they’re not as knowledgeable as you thought.
Instead, ask them for a coffee. Say you’d love to pick their brains about a certain topic, and have some questions ready. This is your opportunity to figure out if they could be a good mentor for you, as well as impress them so that they’ll say yes when you actually ask them.
💡 TIP: You want to aim to leave this prospective meeting feeling inspired, excited, and potentially even better about yourself. If you didn’t feel good, perhaps they’re not the right person to mentor you. Don’t be so set on finding a mentor that you invest in the wrong relationship.
7. Actually doing the asking
If you found this meeting beneficial and you’d like this person to mentor you and enter a more formalised agreement / relationship, the only thing left to do is ask them.
It’s the part that people find most daunting, but really it’s the easiest bit. Just reach out and ask them if they’d like to mentor you (specify the regularity you’re looking for), to help you with your goals (specify what they are), and advise you with challenges.
Remember to explain how you believe they can help you – a bit of ego flattery goes a long way.
Hopefully, if your meeting went well, it should be a resounding yes. People like helping people, generally.
8. Commit to the relationship
A good mentoring relationship takes dedication and effort from both parties. If you’ve managed to find a good mentor, make sure you put in the time to make it work!
Don’t always wait for your mentor to initiate meetings or targets, take the reigns and make sure you get out of it what you set out to at the very beginning.
Here's some tips to running the first official session with your mentor!
Good luck on your mentoring journey!